Reflections on 2011. I ate a lot of good stuff. Here are ten of the most memorable things consumed. And here’s to more good eating in 2012.
I was in Mexico City for work back in September, and on the advice of many, I dropped into Pujol for a lovely dinner for one. (I know, I know. Still have written about the DF!) And for the record, I walked there from my hotel and didn’t get kidnapped or ANYTHING. (Being kidnapped would have been the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me, so I was kinda looking forward to it.) At the end of my dinner, this bowl of mignardises arrived and although I’m not generally a sweets person, and chocolate gives me hives, the fruit jellies and Mexican chocolate were impossible to resist. I think there may have even been some chipotle involved. I’m still not quite so sure why they gave so much to one person, but I am not one to complain!
Hot & Sour Soup, Mon Lung, Chicago. The most delicious best value thing I ate all year. $2.95 for a “small” bowl of Hot & Sour Soup, which is actually QUITE large. And quite delicious. Don’t order anything else on the menu until you finish your soup. Go.
Sage Gnocchi at Antico, Chicago. So good it made me want to come home and fry up some sage. I’ve yet to go back to this restaurant though to try this again. Odd.
Pig’s Face Sandwich, Butcher & Larder: One Friday, I saw on Facebook that Butcher & Larder was going to do Pig’s Face sandwiches on Saturday. I woke up on Saturday and it felt like my birthday or something. Maybe Christmas when I was like 6 years old. I ran over to B&L and stuffed my face. (Jesus H. Christ, when are they going to order CHAIRS?) I don’t know what they put in here–it was greatly spicy–but I LOVED it.
My friend Mohan’s Corn on the Range, Chicago: My friends Irina and Mohan invited me over to their apartment one afternoon after a spin through the farmers’ market where we had picked up some fresh corn. Mohan grilled the corn over the gas stove and then drenched it with all sorts of Indian spices. So simple. So good.
Hay Soup, Zum Andreas Hofer, Vienna, Austria: This was one of those things that you eat, you sit back, and you think to yourself, “Wow. My life is pretty awesome right now. Because this soup is so good and this restaurant is so cute and the restaurant owner is kinda hot and I think he’s single and maybe I can just stay here in Vienna forever and he can make me his hay soup every day for lunch and we can live happily ever after. ” Or something like that. I’ve been google-ing hay soup recipes ad nauseum ever since. The closest I’ve found is this one, but I’ve yet to try it out. Maybe next year.
So that’s it for me in 2011. Happy New Year and see you, um, tomorrow.
I really enjoyed writing my “Ten Best Things I Bought in 2010” post, so I thought I’d give this another shot this year. The list is a little different because I’ve had a place to live all this year, so I don’t need things like toasters anymore. I find myself buying more little luxuries. So here’s what I bought and liked in 2011.
My Black & Decker Rice Cooker. I love this little guy. Throw some jasmine rice in, and then in the steamer basket, add some some frozen prawns and some frozen peapods. Now you’ve got dinner for two in about 20 minutes. (It’s a very small rice cooker.) Tip: Sriracha makes everything delicious. $13.85 from Amazon.com.
Cowshed Facial Toner. During my stay at the Dean Street Townhouse in London earlier this year, I got hooked on this toner from Cowshed. It makes my skin feel milky soft and is so mild, I find myself using it again and again in the course of a day. 16 GBP from Cowshed online.
Dre Beats Headphones. Just in case that last item is turning off all the dudes who read my blog, I really dig my Dre Beats Headphones. I look like a tool wearing them on public transport, but the sounds are immense. Currently $167.63 on Amazon.com.
Cheap-o JVC Headphones. I am constantly losing or breaking headphones. I blame the airline industry. These headphones are my favorite cheap ones to buy in bulk so that I always have an extra pair and don’t have to shell out $30 in airports. Fits snugly in and around the ear when exercising. (I apparently have small ears as ear buds like those from Apple never fit.) The headphones are generally around $14 a pair, but you can find them sometimes for a lot cheaper. Like for $8 or $9. Check Amazon for this model.
The Happiness Project. I finally got around to reading this little treasure of a book, and boy am I glad I did. Much food for thought, all of it aimed at discovering and leading a lighter, happier life. Seems like it would be especially nice to read at the beginning of a year when you’re making resolutions. Now if only I could get everyone in my family to read it. $17.15 from Amazon.
My Nike Air Cole Haans. Four pairs. Various prices. Available on the Cole Haan Website. So comfortable. Sign up for their mailing list because they frequently do 30% off and 40% off promotions. I never pay list price anymore.
Cowshed Conditioner: This stuff has seriously changed my very thick and unruly hair forever. Works especially well if you leave it in for a while. Another discovery from my stay at The Dean Street Townhouse. 16 GBP online from Cowshed, or call the spa in NYC and ask if they can get you any.
My Starwood American Express Card. OK, okay. I know it’s not a “thing” that one buys and it’s so odd that it comes after a hair product, but this is how I live my life people. Without this card, how else would I have spent three nights in London earlier this year? Or stayed at the W Fort Lauderdale like I’m doing now? POINTS, people. Points. People ask me how it is that I travel so much for fun, and although I would love to say it’s because I’m independently wealthy, it’s really because I’m a mileage and points addict. $65 annual membership fee. Worth every single penny. You should get one. I wonder if they have an affiliate program so I can get some credit for the referrals??
So that’s what I bought and liked in 2011. What about you? Anything you particularly liked that I should keep my eye out for? Let me know!
Name: Joe Campagna Occupation: Entrepreneur Married? I’ve never bought an engagement ring. Kids? None that I’m aware of. Age: 37 From: Park Ridge Knife Hand: Right Twitter Handle: @chifoodsnob URL: http://www.chicagonow.com/chicago-food-snob
1. Nickname? Chicago Food Snob (CFS): I do.
<silence> Krista (K): Are you going to tell me? CFS: When I was a freshman in college, I was 17 so I was still very young and did not look my age. I looked younger. So it was “Sweet Pea” which morphed into Pee Wee and later became just P. Most people didn’t even really know my real name until my senior year in college. K: So this Pei Wei thing is pretty funny for you then? CFS: it was meant to be.
2. What’s the last meal you made for yourself? CFS: On Sunday, I made pasta and meatballs. K: What type of pasta? CFS: Rigatoni. K: What brand? CFS: Barilla. K: Good choice. What was in your meatballs?. CFS: Half lamb, half veal, breadcrumbs, garlic, onion, salt, pepper, parsley and one egg . K: So do you just make meatballs for yourself? CFS: Yes. I make meatballs for myself. <pauses> Actually, let me change my answer. I was not dining alone. I did not dine alone. K: Interesting that you forgot your dinner companion already. CFS: I didn’t realize you were being specific. Are you writing all that in? Because I was confused by the question
3. Place you eat most often on days off?
Chinese on Friday nights when I stay in. A place called China Dragon in the West Loop.
4. Favorite ingredient to work with?
5. If I gave you $5,000, how would you spend it?
I would probably go to Italy and stay as long as I could. The south. Into Naples and Siciliy because I haven’t been yet. Maybe finish up in the Lake District.
6. First word that comes to mind when I say Michelin?
7. What’s the last charity event you did? CFS: I don’t go to too many anymore because I used to work them. But now I’m pretty involved in the local chamber out where my business is. I’m pretty involved in the stuff that goes on and the projects and stuff. K: That sounds very mysterious. CFS: That I’m on the board of directors of the local chamber of commerce? I sound like Ward Cleaver!
8. Last weekend on earth – what city are you eating in?
9. Why don’t you work with food anymore? CFS: The biggest reason is because of the life balance. Having worked in food for eight, nine years and working those hours. it’s nice now to have a balance and have a social life and be able to go out on a date and not have my iPhone out. It would be hard to go back. K: So you never keep your iPhone out on the table during dinner? CFS: No. K: Careful. I’m going to watch for this now.
10. What did you want to be when you were five? When you were 13? CFS: Professional athlete. Ice hockey. I always wanted to play sports. But when I was in 13, I wanted to go into the military and become a lawyer. Become a judge advocate for the Marine Corp. K: So were you watching a lot of JAG or something? CFS: I actually did not watch a lot of JAG.
One of the most lovely things about the blogosphere is that sometimes, although you don’t really personally know someone, you sure know a heck-of-a-lot about them and you’re positive you could be friends. My former London blogging comrade Gourmet Traveller (in the UK, they spell traveler with two lls) just tagged me in TripBase’s 7 Links Project (an excellent link-building project if ever I saw one) and although I don’t think I’ve ever done a meme here, I just can’t say no to GT and her awesome blog. Seriously — if you are planning a trip anywhere around the world, definitely consult Gourmet Traveller.
So here’s out it works…I need to nominate one of my blog posts in each of seven categories put forth by TripBase. And then I invite five other bloggers to do the same. Easy. (And a nice way of resurfacing old content.)
My most beautiful post: A Designer, Some Tapas, a Photographer and a Very Good Day. I’m not choosing this post for the pictures. It’s for the prose. It just reminds me of what my writing can be like when I’m not distracted or bored or otherwise engaged. This was one of the most wonderful of days and I often wish every day could be just like it.
My most popular post: My Top 10 Restaurants in London. I do despair that this list will grow sadly out of date over time now that I’ve repatriated, but I do love all of these places still and I’ve generally hit at least three each time I’ve returned to London. None of these places are super fancy, but they are all dependably good.
My most controversial post: Morgan M, Plus Some Thoughts on Freebies . I thought I was finally tired of talking about the controversy, but I’m seeing the same things now in Chicago and it just bugs me. Whether a blogger accepts freebies when when freebies are offered is one matter, but to suggest that you are owed anything because you write a blog (particularly when your blog is visited by two people day — one of which is your grandmother and the other of which is someone google’ing “fat man standing on his head”) is ridiculous.
My most helpful post: Where to Eat Around Leicester Square. I STILL to this day refer to this post when I’m hungry and hanging around the tourist nightmare that is Leicester Square in London. (What I still don’t understand is WHAT IS THERE TO SEE IN LEICESTER SQUARE?? Why do tourists go there?? WHY??)
The post whose success surprised me: Tortas Frontera, O’Hare. I visited during the Great Chicago Blizzard of 2011, a day I never want to relive ever ever EVER again. Like never ever. This post gets a lot of Google love on a daily basis. Apparently, everyone who flies through O’Hare wants a Rick Bayless torta, which is good because it sets the bar even higher for restaurant food elsewhere in O’Hare.
Top of the 43 at Bank
A post I feel didn’t get the attention it deserved: I am kinda in love with my recent Ten Photos around London post. I am also kinda in love with Instagram. I was hoping I’d get lots of people saying “I love Instagram too” or “Your photos are like so totally awesome.” But they didn’t. Thank you, however, as always to the lovely Ms. Gourmet Chick for commenting.
The post that I’m most proud of: Syria, 2010. In May of 2010, I spent an unforgettable week in Syria. (The stomach issues I had at the end of the week were also quite unforgettable, but I am thankful to the lovely pharmacist around the corner from my hotel who spoke perfect English and hooked me up. I am also quite thankful to the climate-controlled Four Seasons Damascus, who took lovely care of me when I moved in after I got tired of the bathroom floor in my other hotel.) Anyhow, this post isn’t about my stomach issues or the Four Seasons. It’s about a beautiful country where evil still lives, but beauty still lives too. I hope that comes across.
And now, if I may ask the following five blogs to participate…
It’s times like these when it’s obvious I’m part Floridian…
Making your own orange juice is a lot of work, but it’s so much better than store-bought. I’ve been throwing in some lemons to tart things up a bit. You should too.
Courtesy of the Breville ikon Multi-Speed Juice Fountain, a very wonderful purchase. I wonder if the TSA would have a problem with a juicer in a suitcase? Because I seriously want to travel with this thing.
I’m sitting in one of those airport seafood bars — my guilty pleasure — when the waitress brings me two menus: an old school leather-bound menu book AND an iPad.
Part of me thought “iPad? Now that’s overkill.” I made my choices from the old school menu and then picked up the iPad out of curiosity and started flipping through the all-photo menu.
Well wait a second — the seafood bisque looked nothing like what I expected it to. And the rice noodle salad with seafood? It looked like everything I WANTED. BADLY. I changed my order. And ended up spending more money. So they got some ROI out of me for this.
Yes. You can call me a convert. iPad menus are cool. Very cool. Who’s with me?
1. Adele’s soulful “Someone Like You” and, in fact, the entire amazing album. Adele is awesome and so is this video, particularly the intro. Thank you to Shanna Quinn for cluing me in. (I hear the UK is already sick of this song. I don’t care. I still like it. The album just hit #1 on the Billboard charts in the US this week.)
2. The corn nuts at Bangers & Lace. Seriously delicious. (Don’t you like how I can go from soulful to corn nuts?)
3. My new Holga camera, even though I couldn’t figure out how to get the film out after that first roll. Whoops.
So excited to take pictures with my new Holga. If you’re not familiar with the Holga, it’s essentially a Chinese toy camera that takes dreamy lo-fi photos. Using–gasp–film. Loading film yesterday was a very odd feeling.
Am hoping to finish a roll today and then send it off to be developed so watch this space for the results!
I need a desk. I sold my old John Lewis stalwart to a co-worker before I left London. And as much as I do love blogging from the kitchen island, I really need my own space. And six months after repatriating, it’s time to unpack the, um, office. (It’s functioning as a closet currently.) CSN Stores (every bloggers’ favorite website these days) is going to love me because four of the five desks I like are on their Web site. (Along with pretty much everything you might ever want to buy.) Note I am NOT participating in a CSN giveaway this time around. It was just very convenient that they have a lot of desks I like!
This is the Aria desk from Herman Miller. It’s very handsome. It’s also very large and very expensive. But I still like it and I am thinking of this whole desk purchase thing as an investment. I’m looking for a desk for life.
There’s something nice and clean about this design. It also comes in reddish-orange and white. I’m liking the gray but sometimes I like the white. Too plain? Too boring? This is by Blu Dot.
Another Herman Miller choice. This one is called the Enchord. I kinda dig the green under-table. But maybe I’ll feel too much like a Swedish architect?
Um, so apparently I have a thing for Herman Miller. I like the slots in this one. I don’t know what I’d put in them, but I like them just the same. I also like the dainty legs and the use of color. This desk is called Nelson. It’s a happy desk, isn’t it?
This desk is called the Rian and its made by a small company called Semigood Design in Washington State. (Someone obviously has some confidence problems?) I might get the chair–only because it’s cute–but I don’t think I could use it for working. I need a chair with a back. I like that this has drawers and there’s just something very clean and neat about it.
What do you think? Which one do you think I should buy? Comments please!
You should go see the feature documentary my friend and colleague Dustin Grove did on Chicago jazz musician Ron Cooper. It’s called “If I’m Not Home” and it’s playing at the Gene Siskel Center on Saturday and Monday. It’s been getting AWESOME reviews. See The Tribune and The Reader. You can buy tickets on Ticketmaster.